Contributed By:

Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval on November 26, 2019

Many of us are familiar with the saying, “The only constant in life is change,” a concept explored and expounded on by the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (530-470 BC).  He asserted that life is constantly changing and in a state of ‘universal flux’ and that fighting or resisting this natural flux is a cause of suffering. Despite what he saw as an unnatural struggle, resisting change is something many people experience at all parts of life because of many factors external and internal, and learning to manage change in healthy ways is an important goal.

 

The very essence of life is based on change. We are constantly growing and changing – from the time we’re born through adulthood, as these changes are the result of biology, experiences, and the passage of time. There are a lot of changes we experience that are the result of natural cycles or the sheer fluidity of life. People, plants, and animals grow through various stages. The sun and moon move across our skies. These changes are generally out of our control. We tend to accept these as the way life is – and we don’t generally get too upset about them.

 

Other changes are more under our control. These are usually self-initiated changes – you are behind the change. These types of changes may be as simple as deciding to stop on the way to work for coffee when you usually drive straight to your destination or as complex as determining which nanny job you should accept.

 

There is also change that occurs circumstantially. If you are driving to work and a road is blocked by a traffic accident – the change in course (detour) is caused by the circumstances. If a family changes their childcare plan and no longer need you as their nanny, you must look for a new job as a result of the circumstances, not necessarily because you wanted a job change.

 

So why do some people seem to easily accept changes and others are upset with them? Change can be highly emotional. An underlying factor in how we respond to change is influenced by our personality and our level of acceptance of uncertainty. Someone who takes comfort in routines and schedules might get thrown off or unsettled by an unexpected change.  A different person with more of a “go with the flow” mentality might be able to take unexpected change in stride and welcome the novelty of plans.  Where do you fall on this spectrum?  Reflecting on this part of personality can help us better understand why some changes are harder for us than others.  It can also help us see what sorts of internal obstacles get in our own way when we are navigating changes.

 

Another factor that impacts how people accept change is how much we feel we are in control of the change.  Changes that feel more within our control cause less stress, however, we all experience changes in our lives that are unexpected and out of our control.  If we cannot change the outcome, we benefit from working to accept it. Acceptance does not mean that we like the change or approve of what is happening, but instead it is an acknowledgement of what is happening without judgment of it being good or bad. Though this is a simple concept, acceptance can be very challenging.

 

Even though we may not be able to have any control over the change itself, with acceptance we can work to control our reaction to the change. Our response can be positive or negative. While making space for our negative reactions and feelings is important and healthy, channeling energy into proactive and more positive responses can often lead to a healthier reaction. How can we do this? Be determined to make the most of the change by being open to new ideas and opportunities. Keep things in perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the short-term repercussions (How will I find a new job? How will I pay bills?), and these are important. But try not to panic. Set reasonable expectations and work to achieve them. Don’t deny the situation or wait to deal with it – take immediate action

 

If the change that is occurring is under your control, try to determine what a positive outcome would be. Analyze multiple potential outcomes and determine the pros and cons from your perspective and consider the likelihood of each potential outcome. Don’t become overly focused on the ideal outcome but rather focus on what is realistic at this time. Once you have determined your preferred outcome, next determine the necessary steps to increase the likelihood of that outcome. It is a key step to know what you want before you can decide on a course of action.

 

So how do you develop that course of action? It may be easier to look at the desired end result and work backwards. For example, if you are currently working as a part-time after-school nanny, but not totally satisfied, determine what you would rather be doing. If you want to be a full-time high-end nanny, plan a way to gain the training and experience you would need for that position. Break your goal into small steps – completing training courses, gaining a variety of experiences, etc. Breaking the plan into steps makes your goal easier to accomplish and gives you a sense of making progress along the way. Be willing to go backwards and have some humility – you may need to go back to school or accept jobs at a lower pay scale to gain important experience.  Self-initiated change can be very challenging.  It often taps into our insecurities and self-doubt and it requires us to manage these while taking risks needed to focus on our goals.  Change can be scary, and we often experience setbacks or failures along the way.  If we can accept setbacks as part of the process, they can often challenge us to consider different and better ways of doing things.

 

Most of us have a tendency to stick in our comforting and familiar patterns and change is a direct challenge to that tendency.  We can broaden our comfort with change and the chance of changes working out positively by breaking down the process. Embrace and accept change as part of the flow of life rather than resisting and suffering.  Step back and reflect on how you personally respond to change.  Look at the change in front of you- regardless of if the change is out of your control or self-initiated, an area in which you have direct control is how you choose to respond to the change.  Determine what outcome you would most like to happen and then develop a plan that can lead to that end result by focusing on proactive steps you can take.

 

As nannies, there are a lot of things that change in your life. The children in your charge will grow and need different levels of care. You may need to change families as circumstances change. Childcare standards and norms evolve.  It is important to be able to embrace the changes and accept them as a normal part of your life.

 

The good news is embracing change becomes easier if you understand and prepare for it. Realize that it takes time to accomplish anything worth achieving and value your journey. If you can embrace change with a calm and relaxed mind and you know where you are going and what you are setting out to accomplish, you have a much greater chance of success.

Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval is a licensed psychologist practicing in Durham, North Carolina.  Working with children and families for over 15 years in schools, hospitals, community agencies, Dr. Formy-Duval is currently in private practice and is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute

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